Report of the Accountability Review Boards

Bombings of the US Embassies in
Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
on August 7, 1998

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Pursuant to the Omnibus Diplomatic and Anti-Terrorism Act of 1986 (PL99-399), as amended, the Secretary of State convened Accountability Review Boards on October 5, 1998 to review the circumstances regarding the August 7, 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. These attacks killed more than 220 people, including 12 US Government American employees and family members, 32 Kenyan national USG employees, and 8 Tanzanian national USG employees (Attachment A). In addition, they injured more than 4,000 Kenyans, Tanzanians and Americans. The bombings severely damaged or destroyed the chanceries in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, as well as several other buildings.

The Boards' members were selected by the Secretary of State and by the Director of Central Intelligence. Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr. was named Chairman for both Boards. Because of the links between the two bombings, including the near simultaneous explosions at the two locations, and because of common security issues relevant to both events, the two Boards are submitting one report, with separate detailed sections for Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam.

The criminal investigation of the bombings by the Federal Bureau of Investigation is still underway. Eleven persons with suspected ties to the Sunni Muslim extremist, Usama bin Laden, have been indicted in New York and two suspects are in US custody. Two other individuals have been detained by Tanzanian authorities in Dar Es Salaam. The size and type of explosives remain under investigation.

As called for by the statute, this report examines: whether the incidents were security related; whether security systems and procedures were adequate and implemented properly; the impact of intelligence and information availability; whether any employee of the United States Government or member of the uniformed services breached his or her duty; and finally, whether any other facts or circumstances in these cases may be relevant to appropriate security management of United States missions abroad.

The renewed appearance of large bomb attacks against US embassies and the emergence of sophisticated and global terrorist networks aimed at US interests abroad have dramatically changed the threat environment. In addition, terrorists may in the future use new methods of attack of even greater destructive capacity, including biological or chemical weapons. Old assumptions are no longer valid. Today, USG employees from many departments and agencies work in our embassies overseas. They work and live in harm's way, just as military people do. (See attachment B detailing attacks against US diplomatic installations from 1987 to 1997.) We must acknowledge this and remind Congress and our citizenry of this reality of foreign service life. In turn, the nation must make greater efforts to provide for their safety. Service abroad can never be made completely safe, but we can reduce some of the risks to the survival and security of our personnel. This will require a much greater effort in terms of national commitment, resources, and procedures than in the past.

In 1985, an Advisory Panel on Overseas Security, chaired by Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, produced a comprehensive report on the issue. In our investigation of the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, we observed that many of the problems identified in that landmark report persist. Adequate funds were never provided to implement the Inman recommendations. Instead, there were drastic cuts in State Department appropriations. Furthermore, officials in the Department of State who testified before the Boards were uniformly skeptical that the funding necessary for essential security at our posts over the long term would be obtained.

We understand that there will never be enough money to do all that should be done. We will have to live with partial solutions and, in turn, a high level of threat and vulnerability for quite some time. As we work to upgrade the physical security of our missions, we should also consider reducing the size and number of our embassies through the use of modern technology and by moving, in some cases, to regional posts in less threatened and vulnerable countries.

All employees serving overseas should assign a higher priority to security and adjust their lifestyles to make their workplaces and residences safer. In overseas missions there is a tendency for people to continue doing their work in a certain way, letting the system provide for their safety. This attitude must be changed. Security priorities must be everyone's responsibility if we are going to defeat terrorists. Work priorities will have to be adjusted to make embassies tougher and to improve the overall odds. This process will succeed only if it starts at the top.

We cannot allow terrorists to force us to retreat from defending our interests abroad. Making our people safe and deterring or frustrating terrorist attacks send a strong signal of US determination and capability.

Successful overseas terrorist attacks kill our people, diminish confidence in our power, and bring tragedy to our friends in host countries. When choosing embassy sites, safety and security concerns should guide our considerations more than whether a location may be convenient or of historic, symbolic importance. Most host countries want US embassies to be safe. If they don't, we probably shouldn't be there. There is every likelihood that there will be further large bomb and other kinds of attacks. We must face this fact and do more to provide security or we will continue to see our people killed, our embassies blown away, and the reputation of the United States overseas eroded.

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